The New NVIDIA GRID

Today, August 17, NVIDIA publicly announced big changes in the GRID product line. The introduction of a brand-new GPU architecture, the new 5.0 GRID software and a licensing rebranding. Most excited about these announcements are the new GPU’s. These are based on the Pascal architecture and like its predecessor, the Maxwell GPU’s, they lead the way into accelerating datacenters all over the globe. With the new Pascal based GPU’s the Industry most powerful enterprise virtual workstation becomes available.

NVIDIA

Originally NVIDIA focused the PC gaming market with delivering the best GPU’s. But along the way NVIDIA redefined computer graphics and revolutionised parallel computing. (take a look at this video for an explanation between parallel and sequential computing). Parallel computing powers todays Deep Learning (DL) and ignited Artificial Intelligence (AI). And let’s face it, AI is on everyone’s mind and it is already all around us. Take a moment and watch the opening keynote of the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference (GTC). NVIDIA GPU’s are they super fast and efficient brains of computers, self-driving cars and robots.

NVIDIA revolutionising AI and DL with its GPU’s has a great benefit for GRID. All the knowledge and development comes straight towards the datacenter solutions with the Tesla datacenter GPU’s. The Tesla GPU’s are perfect for accelerating virtual desktops and delivering Windows and Linux desktops and apps to any user on any device, anywhere they want……… OK, as long as they have a connection.

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NVIDIA GRID M10 – GPU for the Masses

Today, may 18th 2016, NVIDIA publicly announced its new member of the Tesla based GRID family. With Tesla based GRID we already knew the M6 and the M60. This lineup is now accompanied with the M10, a true GPU for the masses!

Last week Jim McHugh, VP and GM of NVIDIA, held a special NVIDIA GRID pre-briefing where he shared this announcement about the GRID M10 Tesla. With this new M10 a virtual desktop with an excellent User eXperience (UX) becomes available for all. Before I share all the details about the M10. Let’s have a quick refresh about why GPU accelerated virtual desktops are that important.

Why do we all need a GPU

When we buy a desktop or laptop computer these days a great UX is available right away. Fire it up, go online and YouTube your way into this experience. We stream at 1080p minimum and expect non less. And naturally we have a great UX with whatever we do on our customer devices, whether we edit our vacation photo’s and videos, create a fully animated presentation with Microsoft Sway for our kids, we expect a great UX. We bring these expectations with us to the office. We expect non less when we are at work. Besides this graphical expectation we also expect to work wherever we are using the device of our choice. This calls for a highly flexible solution, brought to us by desktop virtualization techniques such as VMware Horizon and Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop for example. With these solutions you are able to deliver a centralized, virtualized desktop environment to anyone with any device as long as they are connected. This is great, but what about an excellent UX? This is where graphics comes along. We still expect this excellent experience, right? With NVIDIA GRID technology we are able to deliver this excellent UX, but every excellent solution comes with its price.

NVIDIA GRID

NVIDIA first introduced the K1 and the K2 cards. These GPU’s are based on Keplar. Later on GRID 2.0 brought us the M6 and the M60 based on the Maxwell architecture. These GRID solutions made it possible to deliver a virtual desktops for the CAD/CAM designers but also for the knowledge workers using MSFT Office, Web browsers and multimedia software. Everybody could leverage the graphics power of GRID technology. With this GRID technologies the vGPU profiles allows us to use a graphics board up to 32 ConCurrent Users. Off course you are able to more NVIDIA GRID cards in a server. In some cases up to 8 cards per node. For a complete list of supported see http://www.nvidia.com/object/grid-certified-servers.html. All NVIDIA preferred partners have models available supporting up to 4 NVIDIA GRID Cards.

So now you have bought a new server with fancy Broadwell processors, a ton of memory and a smart software based storage solution and on top of it all you added these awesome GRID cards. With a standard HPE DL380 Gen9 server you are able to fit two M60 GRID cards, allowing you to serve 64 VDI desktops with this awesome UX. But what to do with the rest of this great piece of hardware? Naturally you could serve regular VDI desktops with all resources left, but everybody deserves an excellent UX. Now with the new M10 you can. This GRID card is designed for density.

NVIDIA GRID M10

With the NVIDIA GRID M10 you can serve up to 64 VDI desktops with an excellent UX. Using the same DL380 this results in 128 CCU per server. This finally delivers a GPU for the masses. Let’s have a look at the M10 specifications.

M10 Specifications

The NVIDIA GRID M10 is optimized for Virtual PC and Virtual Applications Workloads. This is a true graphics card designed for user density. How does the M10 fits in with the M6 and the M60?

Tesla lineup

The expected list price of the M10 is to be expected around $ 2.500. With the new M10 the licensing model is applied as well. For virtual applications a minimum of $ 10 (annual subscription) per CCU is required as well. See for a complete overview on GRID licensing my previous blog http://www.jitslangedijk.com/nvidia-grid-2-0-new-pricing-and-licensing-model/

With the GRID 2.0 M6 and M60 GPU boards NVIDIA was able to deliver twice the performance for Designers, Power Users and Knowledge workers. With the M10 there are able to deliver twice the user density with up to 64 VDI desktops leveraging the Maxwell based GPU performance. For knowledge workers the M10 provides the highest level of experience for all their apps on any device. With the M6 and M60 the power users and designers are fully served. With the introduction of the M10 organisations can now provide any level of experience for any workload.

The M10 fits in with the Virtual Applications or Virtual PC license model. Virtual Applications with Citrix XenApp is great combination where the M10 really would be appreciated by users.

Final Thoughts…

I believe a VDI environment should have it all. Support for any OS, any client device, any connection and available whenever I need it. I compare my VDI environment performance wise to my laptop computer, just like any other business consumer. This means my VDI desktop is equipped with a state-of-the-art CPU, the right amount of memory and with the right (software based/converged) storage solution and perhaps most important a GPU which delivers an awesome User eXperince! As I said, all business consumers have these expectations or at least deserve such an experience. With the M10 this is possible. The M10 is optimized for user density. This means we are able to fully benefit from all resources a server delivers these days.

My only concerns are still the licensing costs. It adds an extra $ 10 per CCU to the environment, on top of the card itself. Depending on our concurrency ratio this number could come down, but still, its extra. Working on many public tenders, where competitive pricing is required its hard to get sold. In most situations graphics are only required for a small portion of users. With the K1 and the M60 a GPU came available to many power users. The M10 is the next step to deliver a GPU to of us, a GPU for the masses!

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NVIDIA GRID 2.0 – NEW PRICING and LICENSING MODEL

NVIDIA GRIDOn March 4th, NVIDIA announced some big changes in both their licensing model as well as their pricing. At their annual GPU Technology Conference (GTC) in San Jose (CA), NVIDIA informed all the GRID enthusiasts and GRID curious people out there about these big changes. Now, you may think, “Why do you consider this a big change?” Let me clarify on this.

With GRID 2.0 NVIDIA decided to introduce a software licensing model, which wasn’t really appreciated by existing NVIDIA GRID 1.0 (K1 & K2) customers. But ever since NVIDIA announced GRID 1.0 End Of Sale (EOS) last month (March 2016) customers became stressed out. Everyone started calculating and came out with somehow ‘difficult’ business cases, so to speak. Today, things have changed, and they changed in a good way!

NVIDIA has simplified their GRID offering, simplified the business model as well as the License Management. It is tempting to compare the old model and pricing with the newly announced ones, but I won’t go there. The old model and pricing is ‘water under the bridge’, let’s focus on the current situation. I do have comparison charts if you are interested, just let me know. Before we dig into what’s new, let me refresh your memory about NVIDIA GRID.

NVIDIA GRID

In my early years in IT I was introduced with Server Based Computing (SBC), a big leap coming from the concept of ‘super computers’ and Character User Interface (CUI) based terminals. SBC, and later on VDI, brought us flexible and easy to manage environments which brought almost all user functionality to their endpoints. People were able to perform their job regardless of their location, device and connection. Work became less of ‘a place’ and more ‘a thing you do’.

Work isn’t a place, its something you do

With virtual desktops many benefits were introduced but there was always a small part of the application set which didn’t fit in. Applications requiring rich graphics were not the best candidate for SBC/VDI environments. We used reverse seamless techniques to cope with these kind of challenges. This resulted in a centralized environment with virtual machines providing secure access to applications and data where some endpoint devices provided extra functionality with graphic intense applications. These endpoints are equipped with a GPU. This is just one recognizable example.

Almost three years ago NVIDIA introduced GRID 1.0 with the K1 and K2 GPU’s. These Keplar cards brought us lots opportunities with GPU virtualization. Virtualization techniques we all know from server virtualization became available for GPU’s. Within a virtualized environment we already used pass-through configurations for specific use cases. These are 1:1 solution. One user could leverage one GPU. Citrix HDX 3D Pro and Teradici Remote Workstation cards were used as well.

With the NVIDIA vGPU techniques this changed. With a virtualized GPU, all of a sudden, there is a 1:N solution. Based on the vGPU profile you are able to maximize up to 16 concurrent users per GPU. With boards containing multiple GPU’s this results into 32 concurrent users.

Time Slicing

Another huge benefit with GRID is the fact you are able to actually use a GPU to its full potential. I know designers use their expensive physical workstations to their full potential, but in the end of the day, they are humans just like me. Every now and then they need a cup of coffee, take a bathroom break or end up in a discussion with a fellow designer on which design is better. My point is, the GPU isn’t used 100% of the time. This is where GRID benefits with something called time slicing. Time slicing is a well-known technology that hypervisors (e.g. vSphere, XenServer, Hyper-V) use to share physical resources between virtual machines. NVIDIA GRID uses this same technology to share the GPU between multiple virtual machines. So, while the designer is taking his lunch break or in a meeting someone else is able to use the GPU, which won’t be possible in a physical world. This time slicing allows the distribution of pooled resources based on actual need. NVIDIA GRID uses time slicing to share the 3D engine between virtual machines. But it even gets better. Even when the GPU (and CPU) is under load a designer isn’t zooming or rotating all of the time. The CPU and GPU load results in spikes, with free time in between. This free time is usable to other workloads on different VM’s making the GRID model extremely efficient.

Erik Bohnhorst (Performance Engineering Lead Architect at NVIDIA) presented a great session on Time Slicing at the NVIDIA GRID Days. (I short blog describing these first GRID Days can be found here.)

NVIDIA GRID Benefits

NVIDIA GRID changed the game of 2D/3D Graphics in combination with virtual desktop environments and allows people to perform their jobs in a more clever way with a rich User eXperience (UX)! Speaking of UX, the NVIDIA GRID model isn’t just for the designers and power users. Everybody can leverage from a GPU, receiving a great UX. Applications like Microsoft Office or web applications hugely benefit from a GPU. So whether you are a designer or a knowledge worker using Office applications most of the day, they all deserve a workstation class UX. User eXperience is King!

So, why do we need a GPU in each and every virtual desktop (SBC and VDI)?

  • Flexibility
    Work isn’t a place, it’s something you do.
  • Access
    A virtual desktop delivers applications and data on any device, any location and any connection.
  • Security and Control
    Information (IP) is kept within the secured datacenter.
  • Application Integration
    Applications and their data is kept close to each other, within the datacenter. There is no need to copy large data sets back and forth towards different locations.
  • BYO
    A virtual, centralized desktop enables secure access to applications and data in a BYO concept.
  • Disaster Recovery
    Multi-side and/or multi-datacenter on different geo locations is easier to accomplish. 

So we all benefit from a GPU in our virtual desktops and we all should have one, but what about the money? First, the licensing model.

Licensing Model

The previous licensing model contained three different license models. There was a Virtual PC, a Virtual Workstation and a Virtual Workstation Extended license available. These licenses where only available as Perpetual License. As mentioned, I won’t compare the previous models with the ones announced. The old model is ‘water under the bridge’.

So, what’s new you wonder?

First of all, NVIDIA introduced an Annual Subscription license model next to the existing Perpetual license model. Second, the Virtual Workstation Extended is gone, the vGPU profiles and support (NVIDIA CUDA, OpenCL and GPU Pass-through) available in this Extended license are now available with the Virtual Workstation license. And third, a new license is introduced with the Virtual Applications license.

As of today the following licensing models are available.

GRID_Licensing

NVIDIA GRID Virtual Applications

The Virtual Applications model is introduced for those organizations who use RDSH or Citrix XenApp environments. These shared hosted desktop environment can really benefit a GPU. Both for the ever important User eXeperience (UX) as well as User Density. A lot of Windows applications e.g. Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office application can leverage a GPU the UX improves drastically. And since we don’t bother the CPU that much with instructions which are ‘better off’ being processed at a GPU the User Density increases.  

NVIDIA GRID Virtual PC

The Virtual PC is intended for users who want a virtual desktop and need great UX. Delivering applications, browsers and HD video with the same experience as people are used to when they are using a physical PC.

NVIDIA GRID Virtual Workstation

The Virtual Workstation is available for those who require a professional graphics virtual workstation, the Power Users, Designers and Engineers. The ones designing the next Boeing or doing all the cool stuff at BMW. These man and woman use Adobe CS6, AutoDesk AutoCad, Esri and Catia on a day to day basis. These are the ones creating a new world.

Let’s compare these models to each other.

NVIDIA GRID Licenses

 

Licensing Prices

As mentioned NVIDIA announced new GRID prices. Today NVIDIA offers two business models with Perpetual Licenses and Annual Subscription, both with their own pricing, off course.  “So, what about these prices already”, I hear you thinking.

Licenses

With these new business models and prices organizations gain ‘freedom of choice’. Obtain an Annual Subscription, with SUMS included, just for one year or invest some extra and get a Perpetual license in which you’ll be GRID Enabled for life. With Perpetual licenses SUMS is required only the first year, after the first year it’s optional.

Also be aware there is an Education Pricing program. Use it to your advantage, if applicable.

Annual Subscription provides software entitlement, Support, Updates, Maintenance (SUM) for 1 year. If you prefer more, you’ll get a 3 year entitlement and pay upfront.

SUMS

Last but not least, the SUMS offering is simplified. With the introduction of GRID 2.0 SUSM was offered in 2 flavors, Basic and Production. The only difference between those 2 offerings was phone support. Well, they opened up some extra landlines. Everybody who buys SUMS or an Annual Subscription is allowed to give the green team a call.

GRID_SUMS

Take a look at the NVIDIA GIRD Packaging and Licensing Guide for more details or contact me if you have any questions on GRID.

Final Thoughts

NVIDIA has brought a great second generation of GRID cards with the M60 and M6 boards. Nevertheless the introduction of licenses didn’t brought them the traction which everyone was hoping for. I truly believe in GPU for the masses. Each and every user deserves a workstation style user experience with their virtual desktops. With the introduction of the new licensing model and pricing this could be more in reach, but will it be enough, I’m not sure to be honest. The first few business cases will prove.

NVIDIA has raised the bar for GPU virtualization. Competitors like AMD, with the FirePro S7150/S7150 x2, are closing in. Maybe their offerings are ‘good enough’. Only people (users) can tell. I know quadro certified can be a huge deal, but for lots of environments this isn’t a requirement if you are just pursuing a ‘good enough’ User eXperience.

Nevertheless, the NVIDIA GRID team achieved something new, something great and explored new grounds. They’ve got a track record and proved they do a great job. Competition will drive all competitors to aim higher, which is beneficial to all of us.  

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